Matawan council adopts ordinance permitting cannabis businesses


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MATAWAN – The Borough Council has adopted an ordinance which will permit retail cannabis businesses and cannabis delivery services to operate in Matawan. The new law will regulate those businesses.

The ordinance was adopted during a meeting on Aug. 4. Councilman Brett Cannon and Councilwoman Stephanie Buckel were absent.

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According to the ordinance, Matawan’s municipal code will be amended to permit and regulate retail cannabis businesses in the borough’s highway improvement zone and in the railroad improvement district. The ordinance will permit cannabis delivery service licenses to be issued in all zones. Cannabis business activity in all other zones will be prohibited.

The action in Matawan followed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, also known as A-21, which was approved by state legislators in February after New Jersey residents voted in 2020 to approve a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.

The state legislation legalizes the use of recreational marijuana (also called adult use marijuana) for certain adults, subject to state regulation; it decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish (a marijuana concentrate); and it removes marijuana as a Schedule I (high potential for abuse) drug.

By Aug. 21, officials in every New Jersey municipality had to decide whether any or all of the state’s approved cannabis businesses would be permitted to operate within their borders. If they did not act, automatic zoning would have permitted the operation of cannabis businesses.

Municipal officials in New Jersey have the option to issue six types of licenses related to cannabis:

• Cannabis Cultivator license, for facilities involved in growing and cultivating cannabis;

• Cannabis Manufacturer license, for facilities involved in the manufacturing, preparation and packaging of cannabis items;

• Cannabis Wholesaler license, for facilities involved in obtaining and selling cannabis items for later resale by other licensees;

• Cannabis Distributor license, for businesses involved in transporting cannabis plants in bulk from one licensed cultivator to another licensed cultivator, or cannabis items in bulk from any type of licensed cannabis business to another;

• Cannabis Retailer license, for locations at which cannabis items and related supplies are sold to consumers;

• Cannabis Delivery license, for businesses providing courier services for consumer purchases that are fulfilled by a licensed cannabis retailer in order to make deliveries of the purchased items to a consumer; this service would include the ability of a consumer to make a purchase directly through the cannabis delivery service which would be presented by the delivery service for fulfillment by a retailer and then delivered to a consumer.

The borough’s elected officials commented on their actions.

“Matawan residents overwhelmingly voted for legalized cannabis in 2020. This ordinance provides residents over 21 years of age the option to purchase cannabis legally in Matawan if they chose to do so, all while maintaining community safety and proper oversight. This ordinance also permits the borough to generate revenue from the retail sales,” Councilman Brian Livesey said.

“I was very proud to vote ‘yes’ alongside the rest of council in favor of our cannabis ordinance. The people of Matawan spoke very clearly last November with 68% of our town voting to legalize (cannabis). We listened to our residents and this ordinance is a result,” Borough Council President John Lazar said.

“We are proud Matawan will now be positioned as a leader in the retail cannabis industry in Monmouth County. The new 2% sales tax on cannabis will be used to improve our roads, parks and services that residents enjoy most. Our next goal is to send a clear message to entrepreneurs – Matawan is now open for business,” Lazar said.

“Our town passed (the) legalization (question) at 68% and I believe we can safely and responsibly allow retail cannabis sales within the given parameters. With many towns opting out, Matawan has an increased opportunity to be a leader in this market space,” Councilwoman Deana Gunn said.

Cannon was not present at the Aug. 4 meeting, but in a subsequent interview he said Matawan voters, in conjunction with voters from around New Jersey, overwhelmingly supported the November 2020 public question that proposed the legalization of cannabis.

“You almost never see 70% in favor on any issue. So to me, my constituents spoke loud and clear and I will represent all of them by supporting the ordinance,” Cannon said.
Cannon said he has visited cannabis dispensaries in Colorado and Massachusetts to gain a better understanding of the issue. He said municipal officials who opted out of licensing cannabis businesses regretted the missing revenue in time.
“I do not want Matawan to miss the opportunity on 2% additional revenue to help our taxpayers. These are safe, clean and well-run businesses. I would argue they are more efficiently and securely run than liquor stores. …  If we were to vote no, we would simply be doing what politicians in Washington, D.C., do … not listen to their constituents,” Cannon said.

Councilman Nicolas Reeve said, “Simply put, I voted ‘yes’ on this ordinance primarily to bring a taxable ratable to Matawan. The borough’s residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of this issue. As the oldest member on council, I did not have a generational objection to the issue.”

The ordinance that was adopted by the council also amended Matawan’s municipal code to prohibit the possession of cannabis in borough parks and the consumption of cannabis on borough property.

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